Disaster Capitalism

'We Were Eating Lobsters' Arseholes' – An Oral History of the 2007 Financial Crash

We imagine the bozos who ruined everything remembering how they did it.
August 18, 2017, 1:11pm
A G20 protest outside the Bank of England in 2011 (Photo by Alex on Flikr)

It was 2007. A different world. Ant & Dec were constantly on our TV screens. House prices were very high. North Korea was trying to acquire nuclear weapons. A different world.

For those in financial services, though, it was a time of great decadence…

Travis Norton, Financial Analyst, Lehman Brothers
We were eating lobsters' arseholes.

Bryan Stearns, Trader, Lehman Brothers
You'd get the lobster, you'd peel it, you'd throw it away, then you'd eat this tiny tubercle of bum. Well, we were told it was bum; it could have just as well been half a mashed rice grain. It took 40 lobsters to make one little blob, but it was worth it. Well, it was awful. It tasted like a sea cockroach's arsehole. But y'know. Everyone was doing it.


Bryan Stearns, Lehman Brothers
And then one day in the autumn they came in and told us to clear our desks. They said we didn't have any money.

Travis Norton, Lehman Brothers
Well of course I kicked off. "You can't tell me I don't have any money." But it turned out to be true.

Bryan Stearns, Lehman Brothers
Something to do with collateralised debt obligations, apparently.

Travis Norton, Lehman Brothers
Well of course I kicked off. "There's no such thing as a collateralised debt obligation, you pillock. I should know – I've worked here for years". But of course it turned out there was. And what's worse – turns out we'd been selling millions of the buggers.

Bryan Stearns, Lehman Brothers
More fool us!

WATCH: Anti-Capitalist Diary – G20 in Hamburg

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England
It was then that Alistair Darling turned to me and said that we had 72 hours to save the British economy. I said, "Well, maybe we should just prioritise certain bits rather than gambling on the whole lot? What about Surrey? That's quite nice?"

Alister Heath, City AM Editor
Off the record, Darling later suggested to me that this was the moment the Cabinet had their infamous dust-up over whether we should hack Blackpool off of Britain and dump it in the sea.

Fred Goodwin, CEO, Royal Bank Of Scotland
It was all much more responsible and sedate than is imagined. I certainly never welcomed the nickname the financial services press had given me.


Alister Heath, City AM Editor
He insisted everyone call him "Fred The Shred". I think he had a leather jacket with that written on it. "Shred Or Dead", I think it said. Sir Fred, as he was then, would walk around with a shredder and randomly shred items on people's desks. Kids' drawings. Womens' shoes. Financial statements. Tax discs. It didn't matter what – you had to stand to attention while he did it and chant "Shred Shred Shred".

House prices, as so often, were the canary in the coalmine…

Mr & Mrs Andrew And Agnes Toryshires, St Albans.
AT: Well we were devastated. House prices had gone up a lot, see.
AT: Then house prices went down.
AT: It was quite a shock. We didn't realise.
AT: That they could go down.
AT: Yes.
AT They went down, didn't they dear?
AT: Yes.
AT: Down.
AT: Instantly, it wiped out a huge but theoretical paper profit.

But worse was yet to come:

AT: It turned it into a small but still entirely theoretical loss.
AT: We had less imaginary money to go round. I still don't know how we made it.

Photo by man pikin on Flikr

Jim Workingman, Blackpool
The foreman came through, face like soot, said "Sorry lads, we've had to shut down the lobster arsehole processing plant." Ah, were devastated ah were… Ah went back t't'wife, an t'kids, an they said, "Dad, what are we going to eat?" I said: "We'll have to eat New Labour's failed promises." They said: "How are we going to do that?" I said: "It's a figure of speech. Haven't you ever heard of metonymy?"

The solution was Quantitative Easing…

Mervyn King
We thought: 'Dammit, if imaginary money no one understands got us into this, then that's what'll get us out.'

Fred Goodwin
Well I wasn't there by then, so it didn't really bother me. In fact, I spent much of those years jerking off onto my wife's yoga mat in the Surrey Hills.


Top image via Alex on Flikr